RACE: PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County
TRACK: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
DATE: Sunday, Aug. 24
TELECAST: 5:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2
RADIO: IMS Radio Network, XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com.
TEAM PENSKE HEADS TO SONOMA
This weekend, Team Penske will be in northern California to compete at the sole IndyCar Series event west of the Rockies -- the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County at Infineon Raceway.
Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, will need a solid showing this weekend if he hopes to keep his Championship hopes alive as he heads into the final two races of the season 78 points behind Series leader Scott Dixon.
With Team Penske's strong performances on permanent road/temporary street courses this season, the next two races could be just what the Team needs to stay in the hunt. In the four races run thus far on nonoval circuits, Team Penske has achieved the following:
Infineon Raceway has proven to be both a friendly and hostile environment for Team Penske as well as its drivers. Both drivers have definitely found some success at the 2.245-mile permanent road course. Castroneves has finished in the top-five the past two years and earned top-five starts in each of his three appearances. In addition, not only did Briscoe earn his first career IndyCar Series pole in Sonoma in 2005, but Penske Racing also earned its first-ever open wheel pole in Sonoma in 1970 with Mark Donohue.
However, neither Castroneves nor Briscoe has found Victory Circle at the track and each has had their own source of frustration. While Castroneves has completed 99.9% of the laps in his three starts at Infineon Raceway, it is one of only two tracks on the 2008 IndyCar Series circuit where he has never led a lap (Australia is the other).
In addition, despite the fact that Briscoe has earned two top-ten starts in as many appearances, he’s yet to finish in the top-fifteen. As competitive as each driver has been on permanent road/temporary street circuits this season; this is certainly the year that each driver will be looking for their breakthrough in northern California.
“Infineon Raceway is one of the most technical tracks we run on all year” explains Castroneves. “It has big hills, big turns and high speed, so it makes running well there very difficult. Fortunately, we’ve been quick in Sonoma in each visit, but we haven’t been able to bring home a
win. We’ve finished in the top-five the past two years, and I really want to take it to the next level this season in order to keep the Championship battle going. We’re not out of it, but we’re going to need a strong run to be able to stay in the fight.”
“Sonoma was the site of my first career IndyCar Series pole, so Infineon Raceway will always be special to me,” said Briscoe. “The track is very physically and mentally demanding in that the steering gets really heavy around the circuit, the corners are very taxing and there are a lot of ups-and-downs with blind turns. Even though it’s one of the most challenging tracks we go to, I can’t wait to get back there because it really is a fun course to drive.”
2008 INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS
Position Driver Points
1. Scott Dixon 558
2. Helio Castroneves 480
3. Dan Wheldon 420
4. Tony Kanaan 411
5. Ryan Briscoe 350
6. Danica Patrick 315
7. Marco Andretti 311
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay 298
9. Hideki Mutoh 298
10. Oriol Servia 298